Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in Morocco on Wednesday for a historic state visit during which the two nations officially reestablished relations following a two-decade lull.
Morocco was among the Arab countries to sign on to the Abraham Accords initiated by former US President Donald Trump. Lapid’s was the first high-level Israeli visit to Morocco since it joined the Accords late last year.
Israel and Morocco still do not have full diplomatic relations. Lapid was in the capital of Rabat to establish an Israeli Liaison Office and oversee the signing of several cooperative agreements. But officials expect that the exchange of embassies will come in the very near future. See: Will the King of Morocco Get a Seat on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount?
עושים היסטוריה. למען העתיד של ילדנו. pic.twitter.com/4iXztTwe7z
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid???? (@yairlapid) August 11, 2021
In fact, the two countries have had on-again, off-again relations for most of the State of Israel’s modern existence. But those ties were broken back in 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada (or Palestinian terrorist uprising).
The reason for the closeness of Morocco and Israel today is the West African kingdom’s very long history with the Jewish people.
Morocco still hosts a very healthy Jewish community, despite a great many emigrating to the Jewish state decades ago. In Israel there are today approximately one million people of Moroccan Jewish ancestry, many of whom travel regularly to Morocco to visit family.
During World War II, King Mohammed V famously saved the local Jewish population by telling the French Vichy regime and its Nazi overlords that in his kingdom there were “no Jewish citizens, no Muslim citizens, they are all Moroccan.”
Lapid on Wednesday visited the tomb of King Mohammed V before telling his hosts, “This ancient peace and friendship is being restored by people who rethink and redefine historic disputes.”
The Israeli foreign minister went on to quote the famous 12th century Jewish sage Moshe ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides or by his acronym Rambam, who lived for a time in Morocco:
“Every state can be changed from good to evil and from evil to good if he – the person – decides so. Reality is not set. Reality is a choice we make. For too many years, we let others choose the path of war. Today, we take destiny into our own hands and choose the way of peace. Today, we choose the path set out by Maimonides.”
For a related story, see: Discovering Jewish Moroccan Culture in Israel